The Gloria Particle

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When I told my wife that she emits around 400 neutrinos a second, she said, “Rubbish.” I wasn’t surprised. This is her stage one denial. I handed her the book. She went straight into stage two. “How do they know?” she squealed, and then, “Why are you even reading that stuff? The lawn needs cutting.” The whole conversation lasted barely five seconds, during which – whether she believed me or not – she emitted a couple of thousand neutrinos. Not that you’d have noticed. She was a practical woman, Gloria, a doer of things. She cooked, she cleaned, she shopped, she ironed. In the evenings she watched TV and drank a cup of tea. Neutrinos were not in her vocabulary.

When the doctor told Gloria she had cancer she said, “Rubbish,” and squealed, “How do you know?” He handed her the test results. She said, “There must be some mistake. I feel fine.”

That last night in the hospice I sat at her bedside. Her eyelids were closed. Our conversations were all behind us. In the silence I began calculating. At 400 neutrinos a second Gloria emitted around three and a half million a day, more than twelve billion a year. In her entire life, while she cooked and cleaned, while she shopped and ironed, as she watched TV and drank her tea, around 800 billion neutrinos must have fizzed invisibly from her body. She slipped peacefully away the following morning. I remained with her for a while and thought about the billions of neutrinos she’d emitted during her life. I wondered where they’d gone. We can’t see them, can’t smell them, can’t touch them. Neutrinos are so tiny they pass right through us without so much as a tickle.

We spent a lot of our time together over the years, me and Gloria. It occurs to me now that billions of her neutrinos probably passed through my body, and billions of mine through hers. Perhaps, if such a thing can exist, there’s a neutrino pair out there somewhere formed from one of Gloria’s and one of mine, two neutrinos out of all those billions that bumped together to form a new particle, a Gloria particle, fizzing outwards between the stars like two souls joined for eternity. Sometimes I lie awake at night thinking about that, taking comfort from it. And sometimes in the darkness I hear the echo of Gloria’s voice saying, “Rubbish.”

About the Author: 
Bob Jacobs lives in the south-east of England with his wife and kids and Sony Vaio. In his spare time he likes to lie motionless on his back, whistling and staring at clouds.

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Quantum Theories

I is for ... Interferometer

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T is for ... Teleportation

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P is for ... Probability

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S is for ... Superposition

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D is for ... Decoherence

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B is for ... Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC)

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A is for ... Act of observation

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V is for ... Virtual particles

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D is for ... Dice

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G is for ... Gravity

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C is for ... Cryptography

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Y is for ... Young's Double Slit Experiment

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B is for ... Bell's Theorem

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W is for ... Wavefunction

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L is for ... Light

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R is for ... Radioactivity

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M is for ... Many Worlds Theory

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Q is for ... Qubit

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H is for ... Hawking Radiation

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U is for ... Universe

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L is for ... Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

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E is for ... Entanglement

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W is for ... Wave-particle duality

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R is for ... Randomness

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H is for ... Hidden Variables

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U is for ... Uncertainty Principle

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S is for ... Schrödinger’s Cat

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A is for ... Atom

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I is for ... Information

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P is for ... Planck's Constant

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M is for ... Multiverse

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X is for ... X-ray

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Z is for ... Zero-point energy

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